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  • richardmitnick 3:34 pm on October 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “Hubble Sees ‘Ghost Light’ From Dead Galaxies” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    October 30, 2014
    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore

    NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has picked up the faint, ghostly glow of stars ejected from ancient galaxies that were gravitationally ripped apart several billion years ago. The mayhem happened 4 billion light-years away, inside an immense collection of nearly 500 galaxies nicknamed “Pandora’s Cluster,” also known as Abell 2744.

    The scattered stars are no longer bound to any one galaxy, and drift freely between galaxies in the cluster. By observing the light from the orphaned stars, Hubble astronomers have assembled forensic evidence that suggests as many as six galaxies were torn to pieces inside the cluster over a stretch of 6 billion years.

    a2744
    Massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster, takes on a ghostly look where total starlight has been artificially colored blue in this Hubble view.
    Image Credit: NASA/ESA/IAC/HFF Team, STScI

    Computer modeling of the gravitational dynamics among galaxies in a cluster suggests that galaxies as big as our Milky Way Galaxy are the likely candidates as the source of the stars. The doomed galaxies would have been pulled apart like taffy if they plunged through the center of a galaxy cluster where gravitational tidal forces are strongest. Astronomers have long hypothesized that the light from scattered stars should be detectable after such galaxies are disassembled. However, the predicted “intracluster” glow of stars is very faint and was therefore a challenge to identify.

    “The Hubble data revealing the ghost light are important steps forward in understanding the evolution of galaxy clusters,” said Ignacio Trujillo of The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain. “It is also amazingly beautiful in that we found the telltale glow by utilizing Hubble’s unique capabilities.”

    The team estimates that the combined light of about 200 billion outcast stars contributes approximately 10 percent of the cluster’s brightness.

    “The results are in good agreement with what has been predicted to happen inside massive galaxy clusters,” said Mireia Montes of the IAC, lead author of the paper published in the Oct. 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

    Because these extremely faint stars are brightest at near-infrared wavelengths of light, the team emphasized that this type of observation could only be accomplished with Hubble’s infrared sensitivity to extraordinarily dim light.

    Hubble measurements determined that the phantom stars are rich in heavier elements like oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. This means the scattered stars must be second or third-generation stars enriched with the elements forged in the hearts of the universe’s first-generation stars. Spiral galaxies – like the ones believed to be torn apart — can sustain ongoing star formation that creates chemically-enriched stars.

    Weighing more than 4 trillion solar masses, Abell 2744 is a target in the Frontier Fields program. This ambitious three-year effort teams Hubble and NASA’s other Great Observatories to look at select massive galaxy clusters to help astronomers probe the remote universe. Galaxy clusters are so massive that their gravity deflects light passing through them, magnifying, brightening, and distorting light in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Astronomers exploit this property of space to use the clusters as a zoom lens to magnify the images of far-more-distant galaxies that otherwise would be too faint to be seen.

    Montes’ team used the Hubble data to probe the environment of the foreground cluster itself. There are five other Frontier Fields clusters in the program, and the team plans to look for the eerie “ghost light” in these clusters, too.

    See the full article here.

    Another Hubble view of Abell 2744

    a2744a
    Description Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster. The galaxies in the cluster make up less than five percent of its mass. The gas (around 20 percent) is so hot that it shines only in X-rays (coloured red in this image). The distribution of invisible dark matter (making up around 75 percent of the cluster’s mass) is coloured here in blue.
    Date 22 June 2011

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 7:37 am on October 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Frontier Fields: “First Galaxy Field Complete: Abell 2744″ 

    Frontier Fields
    Frontier Fields

    October 23, 2014
    Tony Darnell

    This past summer, the Hubble Frontier Fields team completed observations of the first cluster on its list: Abell 2744! The second set of observations — astronomers call them epochs — consisted of 70 orbits and marks the completion of the first Frontier Fields galaxy cluster. During this set, Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) was pointed at the main galaxy cluster and studied the visible-light portions of the spectrum, while the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) looked at the parallel field in the infrared.

    NASA Hubble ACS
    ACS

    NASA Hubble WFC3
    WFC3

    Remember that Hubble will visit each field multiple times, with Hubble oriented such that one set of observations will point WFC3 at the cluster and ACS at a parallel field adjacent to the cluster (that’s one epoch). The telescope will then come back and do another set of observations with the cameras switched: ACS pointing at the cluster and WFC3 pointing to the parallel field (that’s the second one).

    The Frontier Fields team does this to allow for complete wavelength coverage in both infrared and visible light for the galaxy cluster and the parallel field.

    The first epoch, completed in November 2013, consisted of 87 orbits. This brings the total amount of time Hubble looked at this cluster to 157 orbits.

    a2744
    Final mosaic of the Frontier Fields galaxy cluster Abell 2744. This image is the culmination of both epochs totaling 157 Hubble orbits. The numbers prefixed with “F” are the Hubble filters used by the ACS and WFC3 cameras to take the image. The scale bar of 30″ is approximately 2% the angular size of the full moon as seen from Earth – very small! Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)

    Final mosaic of the Frontier Fields galaxy cluster Abell 2744. This image is the culmination of both epochs totaling 157 Hubble orbits. The numbers prefixed with “F” are the Hubble filters used by the ACS and WFC3 cameras to take the image. The scale bar of 30″ is approximately 2% the angular size of the full moon as seen from Earth – very small!
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)

    par
    Parallel field of Frontier Field Abell 2744

    This is the completed composite mosaic of the Parallel Fields observed with galaxy cluster Abell 2744.
    Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)

    See? Epic! Er, I mean epoch.

    Once the second epoch was completed, some of the faintest galaxies ever seen were measured for the first time. Astronomers have been working on these images since their release, and we are anxiously awaiting to hear what they find.

    See the full article here.

    Frontier Fields draws on the power of massive clusters of galaxies to unleash the full potential of the Hubble Space Telescope. The gravity of these clusters warps and magnifies the faint light of the distant galaxies behind them. Hubble captures the boosted light, revealing the farthest galaxies humanity has ever encountered, and giving us a glimpse of the cosmos to be unveiled by the James Webb Space Telescope.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    Hubble
    NASA James Webb Telescope
    Webb
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  • richardmitnick 8:09 pm on October 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Frontier Fields: “Recent Guide Star Loss with Abell 2744″ 

    Frontier Fields
    Frontier Fields

    May 30, 2014
    Patricia Royle – Frontier Fields Program Coordinator

    We have just experienced our first non-acquisition of a guide star during Frontier Fields observations. This occurred while in the midst of Abell 2744 observations.

    bel
    Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster. The galaxies in the cluster make up less than five percent of its mass. The gas (around 20 percent) is so hot that it shines only in X-rays (coloured red in this image). The distribution of invisible dark matter (making up around 75 percent of the cluster’s mass) is coloured here in blue.

    Since HST is in constant motion, pointing is maintained by a set of three Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS) which find and lock on to a pair of guide stars, or a single guide star if pairs are not available. These guide stars are selected by software based on several criteria, including magnitude, relative position to other similar stars, position within the FGS “pickles” (Fields of View) and any pointing constraints on the observation such as ORIENT or POS TARGs within the Phase 2 program. Selected guide stars need to stay within the FGS pickles for the entire orbit, including all pointing changes due to POS TARGs or PATTERNs. If an observation spans more than one visibility interval, the guide stars are reacquired after each interruption either from occultation or SAA passages. A pair of guide stars provides the most accurate and stable pointing since they act as sort of handles for HST to focus on. If two stars are used in two separate FGS pickles, then HST is able to maintain almost perfect pointing throughout the observations. If only one star is used, HST may show some drift around the single star since there is not a second star to keep the telescope from rotating. More information about the accuracy of each type of guiding can be found online at http://www.stsci.edu/hst/acs/faqs/guide_star.html.

    In some cases, a guide star may fail to acquire or it might successfully acquire but can not be maintained. Sometimes this is a result of a telescope problem, but more often, it turns out that a selected guide star fails to meet one of the criteria it initially appeared to pass. This can happen in the case of a variable star, a multi-star system that previously appeared as a single star, or with the presence of a similar star (called a spoiler) nearby that confuses the FGS. When PAIRs are used, it is possible to fail to acquire one star, but succeed with the other, resulting in observations taken with single star guiding which is often good enough for most science. There may also be situations when a star is acquired initially but fails to re-acquire in a subsequent orbit, or lock may be lost on one star during an orbit. This is usually due to the star itself being at the very edge of usability and violating one of the limits set by the telescope to help ensure HST knows where it is pointing. With guide star pairs, science can usually continue as long as one of the stars is acquired. If both stars fail (very unusual) or an observation using single star guiding fails to acquire its one star, the observations default to gyro control. This is often problematic to the science as the observations are likely to show significant drift and rotation, or may be far enough off that the target is completely missed.

    During the first Frontier Fields visit observing Abell 2744 on May 14, one of the two selected guide stars failed to acquire, resulting in the observations continuing on single star guiding instead. As with all failures, the failed star was investigated and was found to be a bad star. It was flagged in the database within 24 hours of the failure, such that future observations would not attempt to use the same bad star. The second Frontier Fields visit of Abell 2744 on May 15 also failed, as it was already on the telescope and set to use the same guide star pair. Several other visits that were scheduled to execute on the telescope the following week, with the same guide star pair, were quickly reworked by the calendar-building team at STScI to use a different guide star pair. The remaining visits in the epoch not yet put on a calendar are unaffected, since the bad star is no longer an option for our software when selecting from available guide star pairs.

    fs
    Figure 1: The HST Field of View of Abell 2744, with Fine Guidance Sensors Fields of View indicated by the large, gray arcs.

    The green boxes in Figure 1 identify potential guide stars. To use guide star pairs, two stars must fall into separate FGS pickles and remain there throughout any shifts in pointing during the visit. If two similar guide stars are too close to each other, neither can be used since the FGS could lock onto the wrong star. Because of the multiple criteria involved and the need for precision, not all guide stars can be used for a given observation, even if the Field of View seems to show stars that could be used.

    The Frontier Fields data products team carried out a detailed examination of all the data from the two visits that were affected by these guidestar issues. For the first visit (number 37), only one of the guidestars was lost, while the other star was successfully acquired and the observations were able to continue in single guide star mode. Analysis of the resulting images showed no measurable impact on the pointing or the PSF quality (consistent with our knowledge that HST is able to perform successfully with a single guide star, when necessary), and all the data from this visit were included in the mosaics.

    For the second visit (number 81), the failure mode was somewhat different. The guide stars were fine during the first two orbits of this 4-orbit visit, but began to show problems during the third orbit and failed the reacquisition for the fourth orbit. Consequently, the ACS shutter was closed at the start of the fourth orbit and the fourth exposure for each filter was not obtained. As a result, we include only the first two exposures for each filter in our fast-turnaround v0.5 products, although we may include the third exposure in future versions. For WFC3/IR, all the exposures were obtained, and analysis revealed that the last exposure was offset by no more than a few tenths of an arcsecond compared to its expected location. Thus, there was no significant evidence of drift during the exposures, indicating that the telescope was able to track successfully in gyro mode during these exposures.

    So, it makes no difference. Two, one, or zero guide stars – we can do great science in any case!

    See the full article here.

    Frontier Fields draws on the power of massive clusters of galaxies to unleash the full potential of the Hubble Space Telescope. The gravity of these clusters warps and magnifies the faint light of the distant galaxies behind them. Hubble captures the boosted light, revealing the farthest galaxies humanity has ever encountered, and giving us a glimpse of the cosmos to be unveiled by the James Webb Space Telescope.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    Hubble

    NASA James Webb Telescope
    Webb

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  • richardmitnick 3:20 pm on October 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: Hubblecast #78 Part 1 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    October 22, 2014

    Dr J answers questions about Hubble

    Last month we asked the public to send us their Hubble- and astronomy-related questions, and the response was incredible! In this episode Dr J answers a selection of the questions that were specifically about Hubble itself. These range from where Hubble is and how it avoids crashing into space debris, to what the future holds for Hubble, how its life will end, and what will take its place. Watch out for the next episode in which the more science-related questions will get their turn.

    Watch, enjoy, learn.

    See the video here.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 3:28 pm on October 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: ” NASA’s Hubble Finds Extremely Distant Galaxy through Cosmic Magnifying Glass” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    October 16, 2014
    Felicia Chou
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0257

    Peering through a giant cosmic magnifying glass, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a tiny, faint galaxy — one of the farthest galaxies ever seen. The diminutive object is estimated to be more than 13 billion light-years away.

    aabel
    The mammoth galaxy cluster Abell 2744 is so massive that its powerful gravity bends the light from galaxies far behind it, making these otherwise unseen background objects appear larger and brighter than they would normally.
    Image Credit:
    NASA, J. Lotz, (STScI)

    This galaxy offers a peek back to the very early formative years of the universe and may just be the tip of the iceberg.

    “This galaxy is an example of what is suspected to be an abundant, underlying population of extremely small, faint objects that existed about 500 million years after the big bang, the beginning of the universe,” explained study leader Adi Zitrin of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. “The discovery is telling us galaxies as faint as this one exist, and we should continue looking for them and even fainter objects, so that we can understand how galaxies and the universe have evolved over time.”

    The galaxy was detected by the Frontier Fields program, an ambitious three-year effort that teams Hubble with NASA’s other great observatories — the Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory — to probe the early universe by studying large galaxy clusters. These clusters are so massive their gravity deflects light passing through them, magnifying, brightening, and distorting background objects in a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. These powerful lenses allow astronomers to find many dim, distant structures that otherwise might be too faint to see.

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    NASA Spitzer schematic
    NASA/Spitzer

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA Chandra schematic
    NASA/Chandra

    The discovery was made using the lensing power of the mammoth galaxy cluster Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster, which produced three magnified images of the same, faint galaxy. Each magnified image makes the galaxy appear 10 times larger and brighter than it would look without the zooming qualities of the cluster.

    The galaxy measures merely 850 light-years across — 500 times smaller than our Milky Way galaxy– and is estimated to have a mass of only 40 million suns. The Milky Way, in comparison, has a stellar mass of a few hundred billion suns. And the galaxy forms about one star every three years, whereas the Milky Way galaxy forms roughly one star per year. However, given its small size and low mass, Zitrin said the tiny galaxy actually is rapidly evolving and efficiently forming stars.

    The astronomers believe galaxies such as this one are probably small clumps of matter that started to form stars and shine, but do not yet have a defined structure. It is possible Hubble is only detecting one bright clump magnified due to the lensing. This would explain why the object is smaller than typical field galaxies of that time.

    Zitrin’s team spotted the galaxy’s gravitationally multiplied images using near-infrared and visible-light photos of the galaxy cluster taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. But they needed to measure how far away it was from Earth.

    NASA Hubble WFC3
    WFC3 on Hubble

    NASA Hubble ACS
    ACS on Hubble

    Usually, astronomers can determine an object’s distance based on how far its light has been stretched as the universe slowly expands. Astronomers can precisely measure this effect through spectroscopy, which characterizes an object’s light. But the gravitationally-lensed galaxy and other objects found at this early time period are too far away and too dim for spectroscopy, so astronomers use an object’s color to estimate its distance. The universe’s expansion reddens an object’s color in predictable ways, which scientists can measure.

    Zitrin’s team performed the color-analysis technique and took advantage of the multiple images produced by the gravitational lens to independently confirm the group’s distance estimate. The astronomers measured the angular separation between the three magnified images of the galaxy in the Hubble photos. The greater the angular separation due to lensing, the farther away the object is from Earth.

    To test this concept, the astronomers compared the three magnified images with the locations of several other closer, multiply-imaged background objects captured in Hubble images of Pandora’s cluster. The angular distance between the magnified images of the closer galaxies was smaller.

    “These measurements imply that, given the large angular separation between the three images of our background galaxy, the object must lie very far away,” Zitrin explained. “It also matches the distance estimate we calculated, based on the color-analysis technique. So we are about 95 percent confident this object is at a remote distance, at redshift 10, a measure of the stretching of space since the big bang. The lensing takes away any doubt that this might be a heavily reddened, nearby object masquerading as a far more distant object.”

    Astronomers have long debated whether such early galaxies could have provided enough radiation to warm the hydrogen that cooled soon after the big bang. This process, called reionization, is thought to have occurred 200 million to 1 billion years after the birth of the universe. Reionization made the universe transparent to light, allowing astronomers to look far back into time without running into a “fog” of cold hydrogen.

    The team’s results appeared in the September online edition of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    For images and more information about Hubble, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

    See the full article here.

    Another view of Abell 2744 from Hubble

    abel 2744
    Description: Abell 2744, nicknamed Pandora’s Cluster. The galaxies in the cluster make up less than five percent of its mass. The gas (around 20 percent) is so hot that it shines only in X-rays (coloured red in this image). The distribution of invisible dark matter (making up around 75 percent of the cluster’s mass) is coloured here in blue.
    Date:22 June 2011

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on October 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “Turquoise-tinted plumes in the Large Magellanic Cloud” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    13 October 2014
    No Writer Credit

    The brightly glowing plumes seen in this image are reminiscent of an underwater scene, with turquoise-tinted currents and nebulous strands reaching out into the surroundings.

    LMC
    NASA/ESA Hubble Acknowledgement: Josh Barrington
    Hubble Space Telescope WFPC2 (decommissioned)

    NASA Hubble WFPC2

    However, this is no ocean. This image actually shows part of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small nearby galaxy that orbits our galaxy, the Milky Way, and appears as a blurred blob in our skies. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has peeked many times into this galaxy, releasing stunning images of the whirling clouds of gas and sparkling stars (opo9944a, heic1301, potw1408a).

    This image shows part of the Tarantula Nebula‘s outskirts. This famously beautiful nebula, located within the LMC, is a frequent target for Hubble (heic1206, heic1402).

    In most images of the LMC the colour is completely different to that seen here. This is because, in this new image, a different set of filters was used. The customary R filter, which selects the red light, was replaced by a filter letting through the near-infrared light. In traditional images, the hydrogen gas appears pink because it shines most brightly in the red. Here however, other less prominent emission lines dominate in the blue and green filters.

    This data is part of the Archival Pure Parallel Project (APPP), a project that gathered together and processed over 1000 images taken using Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, obtained in parallel with other Hubble instruments. Much of the data in the project could be used to study a wide range of astronomical topics, including gravitational lensing and cosmic shear, exploring distant star-forming galaxies, supplementing observations in other wavelength ranges with optical data, and examining star populations from stellar heavyweights all the way down to solar-mass stars.

    A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Josh Barrington.

    See the full article here.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 9:15 am on October 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “Hubble Opens New Eyes on the Universe” 2009 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    CONTACT

    J.D. Harrington
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-5241
    j.d.harrington@nasa.gov

    Susan Hendrix
    Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
    301-286-7745
    susan.m.hendrix@nasa.gov

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    Astronomers declared NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope a fully rejuvenated observatory with the release Wednesday of observations from four of its six operating science instruments.

    Topping the list of new views are colorful, multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densely packed star cluster, an eerie “pillar of creation,” and a “butterfly” nebula. Hubble’s suite of new instruments allows it to study the universe across a wide swath of the light spectrum, from ultraviolet all the way to near-infrared. In addition, scientists released spectroscopic observations that slice across billions of light-years to probe the cosmic-web structure of the universe and map the distribution of elements that are fundamental to life as we know it.

    kiss
    NGC 6302

    “This marks a new beginning for Hubble,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The telescope was given an extreme makeover and now is significantly more powerful than ever, well-equipped to last into the next decade.”

    The new instruments are more sensitive to light and, therefore, will improve Hubble’s observing efficiency significantly. It is able to complete observations in a fraction of the time that was needed with prior generations of Hubble instruments. The space observatory today is significantly more powerful than it ever has been.

    “We couldn’t be more thrilled with the quality of the images from the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and repaired Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the spectra from the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS),” said Keith Noll, leader of a team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which planned the early release observations. “The targets we’ve selected to showcase the telescope reveal the great range of capabilities in our newly upgraded Hubble.”

    NASA Hubble WFC3
    NASA/Hubble WFC3

    NASA Hubble ACS
    NASA/Hubble ACS

    NASA Hubble Cosmic Origins Spectograph
    NASA/Hubble COS

    NASA Hubble STIS
    NASA/Hubble STIS

    These results are compelling evidence of the success of the STS-125 servicing mission in May, which has brought the space observatory to the apex of its scientific performance. Two new instruments, the WFC3 and COS, were installed, and two others, the ACS and STIS, were repaired at the circuit board level. Mission scientists also announced Wednesday that the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer was brought back into operation during the three months of calibration and testing.

    “On this mission we wanted to replenish the ‘tool kit’ of Hubble instruments on which scientists around the world rely to carry out their cutting-edge research,” said David Leckrone, senior project scientist for Hubble at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Prior to this servicing mission, we had only three unique instrument channels still working, and today we have 13. I’m very proud to be able to say, ‘mission accomplished.’ “

    For the past three months, scientists and engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute and Goddard have been focusing, testing, and calibrating the instruments. Hubble is one of the most complex space telescopes ever launched, and the Hubble servicing mission astronauts performed major surgery on the 19-year-old observatory’s multiple systems. This orbital verification phase was interrupted briefly July 23 to observe Jupiter in the aftermath of a collision with a suspected comet.

    Hubble now enters a phase of full science observations. The demand for observing time will be intense. Observations will range from studying the population of Kuiper Belt objects at the fringe of our solar system to surveying the birth of planets around other stars and probing the composition and structure of extrasolar planet atmospheres. There are ambitious plans to take the deepest-ever near-infrared portrait of the universe to reveal never-before-seen infant galaxies that existed when the universe was less than 500 million years old. Other planned observations will attempt to shed light on the behavior of dark energy, a repulsive force that is pushing the universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

    kb
    Known objects in the Kuiper belt, derived from data from the Minor Planet Center. Objects in the main belt are colored green, whereas scattered objects are colored orange. The four outer planets are blue. Neptune’s few known trojans are yellow, whereas Jupiter’s are pink. The scattered objects between Jupiter’s orbit and the Kuiper belt are known as centaurs. The scale is in astronomical units. The pronounced gap at the bottom is due to difficulties in detection against the background of the plane of the Milky Way.

    See the full article here.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 8:48 pm on October 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Hubble: “A dusty spiral in Virgo” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    6 October 2014
    No Writer Credit

    This magnificent new image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 4206, located about 70 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Virgo.

    ngc4206
    Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble Nick Rose
    Hubble Space Telescope ACS

    NASA Hubble ACS
    Hubble ACS

    Captured here are vast streaks of dust, some of which are obscuring the central bulge, which can just be made out in the centre of the galaxy. Towards the edges of the galaxy, the scattered clumps, which appear blue in this image, mark areas where stars are being born. The bulge, on the other hand, is composed mostly of much older, redder stars, and very little star formation takes place.

    NGC 4206 was imaged as part of a Hubble snapshot survey of nearby edge-on spiral galaxies to measure the effect that the material between the stars — known as the interstellar medium — has on light as it travels through it. Using its Advanced Camera for Surveys, Hubble can reveal information about the dusty material and hydrogen gas in the cold parts of the interstellar medium. Astronomers are then able to map the absorption and scattering of light by the material — an effect known as extinction — which causes objects to appear redder to us, the observers.

    NGC 4206 is visible with most moderate amateur telescopes at 13th magnitude. It was discovered by Hanoverian-born British astronomer, William Herschel on 17 April 1784.

    A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Nick Rose.

    See the full article here.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 8:33 pm on October 9, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , n, NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From Hubble: “Hubble Maps the Temperature and Water Vapor on an Extreme Exoplanet” 

    NASA Hubble Telescope

    Hubble

    October 9, 2014
    CONTACT
    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Md.
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    A team of scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have made the most detailed global map yet of the glow from a planet orbiting another star, revealing secrets of air temperatures and water.

    The map provides information about temperatures at different layers of the world’s atmosphere and traces the amount and distribution of water vapor on the planet. The findings have ramifications for the understanding of atmospheric dynamics and the formation of giant planets like Jupiter.

    “These measurements have opened the door for a new kind of comparative planetology,” said team leader Jacob Bean of the University of Chicago.

    “Our observations are the first of their kind in terms of providing a two-dimensional map of the planet’s thermal structure that can be used to constrain atmospheric circulation and dynamical models for hot exoplanets,” said team member Kevin Stevenson of the University of Chicago.

    The Hubble observations show that the planet, called WASP-43b, is no place to call home. It’s a world of extremes, where seething winds howl at the speed of sound from a 3,000-degree-Fahrenheit day side that is hot enough to melt steel to a pitch-black night side that sees temperatures plunge below a relatively cool 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

    wasp 43
    WASP-43b is a transiting planet in orbit around the young, active, and low-mass star WASP-43 in the constellation Sextans. The planet is a Hot Jupiter with a mass twice that of Jupiter, and a radius equal to Jupiter’s. WASP-43b had an orbital period of approximately 0.8 days (19.2 hours), the second shortest orbit ever detected, surpassed only by WASP-19b. In addition, at the time of discovery, WASP-43b was the most closely orbiting Hot Jupiter known, a phenomenon that can most likely be explained by its host star’s low mass.

    map
    Global Temperature Map of WASP-43b

    As a hot ball of predominantly hydrogen gas, there are no surface features on the planet, such as oceans or continents that can be used to track its rotation. Only the severe temperature difference between the day and night sides can be used by a remote observer to mark the passage of a day on this world.

    WASP-43b is located 260 light-years away and was first discovered in 2011. WASP-43b is too distant to be photographed, but because its orbit is observed edge-on to Earth, astronomers detected it by observing regular dips in the light of its parent star as the planet passes in front of it.

    The planet is about the same size as Jupiter, but is nearly twice as massive. The planet is so close to its orange dwarf host star that it completes an orbit in just 19 hours. The planet is also gravitationally locked so that it keeps one hemisphere facing the star, just as our moon keeps one face toward Earth.

    The scientists combined two previous methods of analyzing exoplanets and put them together in one for the first time to study the atmosphere of WASP-43b. Spectroscopy allowed them to determine the water abundance and temperature structure of the atmosphere. By observing the planet’s rotation, the astronomers were also able to measure the water abundances and temperatures at different longitudes.

    Because there’s no planet with these tortured conditions in our solar system, characterizing the atmosphere of such a bizarre world provides a unique laboratory for better understanding planet formation and planetary physics. “The planet is so hot that all the water in its atmosphere is vaporized, rather than condensed into icy clouds like on Jupiter,” said team member Laura Kreidberg of the University of Chicago.

    “Water is thought to play an important role in the formation of giant planets, since comet-like bodies bombard young planets, delivering most of the water and other molecules that we can observe,” said Jonathan Fortney, a member of the team from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

    However, the water abundances in the giant planets of our solar system are poorly known because water is locked away as ice that has precipitated out of their upper atmospheres. But on “hot Jupiters” — that is, large planets like Jupiter that have high surface temperatures because they orbit very close to their stars — water is in a vapor that can be readily traced. Kreidberg also emphasized that the team didn’t simply detect water in the atmosphere of WASP-43b, but also precisely measured how much of it there is and how it is distributed with longitude.

    In order to understand how giant planets form, astronomers want to know how enriched they are in different elements. The team found that WASP-43b has about the same amount of water as we would expect for an object with the same chemical composition as the Sun. Kreidberg said that this tells something fundamental about how the planet formed.

    For the first time astronomers were able to observe three complete rotations of a planet, which occurred during a span of four days. This was essential to making such a precise measurement according to Jean-Michel Désert of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    The team next aims to make water-abundance measurements for different planets to explore their chemical abundances. Hubble’s planned successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will be able to not only measure water abundances, but also the abundances of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and methane, depending on the planet’s temperature.

    NASA Webb Telescope
    NASA/Webb

    The results are presented in two new papers, one published online in Science Express on Oct. 9, and the other published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on Sept. 12.

    See the full article here.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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  • richardmitnick 1:12 pm on September 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA/ESA Hubble   

    From Daily Galaxy: “Hubble Captures a Newly Formed Galaxy in Our Cosmic Neighborhood” 

    Daily Galaxy
    The Daily Galaxy

    September 25, 2014
    No Writer Credit

    ddo

    Elderly galaxies tend to be larger thanks to collisions and mergers with other galaxies that have bulked them out, and are populated with a variety of different types of stars — including old, young, large, and small ones. Their chemical makeup is different too. Newly-formed galaxies have a similar composition to the primordial matter created in the Big Bang (hydrogen, helium and a little lithium), while older galaxies are enriched with heavier elements forged in stellar furnaces over multiple generations of stars.
    Dwarf galaxy DDO 68, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, was one of the best candidates so far discovered for a newly-formed galaxy in our cosmic neighborhood. The galaxy lies around 39 million light-years away from us; although this distance may seem huge, it is in fact roughly 50 times closer than the usual distances to such galaxies, which are on the order of several billions of light years.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    Astronomers usually have to peer very far into the distance to see back in time, and view the Universe as it was when it was young. This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy DDO 68, otherwise known as UGC 5340, was thought to offer an exception. This ragged collection of stars and gas clouds looks at first glance like a recently-formed galaxy in our own cosmic neighbourhood. But, is it really as young as it looks?

    Astronomers have studied galactic evolution for decades, gradually improving our knowledge of how galaxies have changed over cosmic history. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has played a big part in this, allowing astronomers to see further into the distance, and hence further back in time, than any telescope before it — capturing light that has taken billions of years to reach us.

    Looking further into the very distant past to observe younger and younger galaxies is very valuable, but it is not without its problems for astronomers. All newly-born galaxies lie very far away from us and appear very small and faint in the images. On the contrary, all the galaxies near to us appear to be old ones.

    By studying galaxies of various ages, astronomers have found that those early in their lives are fundamentally different from those that are older. DDO 68 looks to be relatively youthful based on its structure, appearance, and composition. However, without more detailed modelling astronomers cannot be sure and they think it may be older than it lets on.

    DDO 68 is the best representation yet of a primordial galaxy in the local Universe as it appears at first glance to be very low in heavier elements — whose presence would be a sign of the existence of previous generations of stars.

    lg
    Local Group

    Hubble observations were carried out in order to study the properties of the galaxy’s light, and to confirm whether or not there are any older stars in DDO 68. If there are, which there seem to be, this would disprove the hypothesis that it is entirely made up of young stars. If not, it would confirm the unique nature of this galaxy. More complex modelling is needed before we can know for sure but Hubble’s picture certainly gives us a beautiful view of this unusual object.

    The image is made up of exposures in visible and infrared light taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

    NASA Hubble ACS
    Hubble ACS

    See the full article here.

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